Reader question: What should I do if my French driving licence application is still pending?

Reader question: What should I do if my French driving licence application is still pending?
The UK-France deal on driving licence exchanges allows Britons living in France to continue driving. Photo by Thomas Samson | AFP
A combination of post-Brexit confusion and French administrative delays mean that many foreign residents in France have been waiting for many months (or even years) in a queue to exchange their driving licence for a French one.

Some people’s licences have even expired while they were waiting, leaving them stranded.

In good news, a post-Brexit deal has finally been agreed between the British and French governments, so that exchanges can begin again.

The general Brexit confusion has meant delays to applications for all licence swaps, not just UK licences, as officials struggled to cope with thousands of applications.

So if you’re waiting, what should you do?

If you are waiting to swap a non-UK licence – just wait. Now that an agreement has been reached for UK licences things can start moving again, but there is still a backlog of applications to clear. All applications for swap foreign licences go through the same office in Nantes, so the Brexit chaos has unfortunately had a knock-on effect on other licences too.

If you’re waiting to swap a UK licence 

There is now a new set of criteria, so not all UK licence holders in France need to swap just yet.

The deal says that anyone whose licence was issued before January 1st, 2021 can continue driving on it until the licence or the accompanying photocard expires.

The people who need to apply to exchange their licence are:

  • Anyone who has a UK licence issued after January 1st, 2021. This must be done within one year.
  • Anyone whose licence expires within the next six months. This can refer to either the expiry of the licence itself – for example if you are approaching your 70th birthday – or the expiry of the photocard, whichever comes first. Please note that applications to swap licences that have more than six months left on them will be rejected.
  • Anyone whose licence has been lost or stolen
  • Anyone whose licence has already expired. Because of the long-running problems with exchanging some people’s licences ran out while they were waiting. The French government has agreed that these can be exchanged for a French licence and drivers will not need to retake a driving test
  • Anyone who is ordered to exchange their licence by a gendarme after committing a driving offence

If you have previously made an application and received an application number, the advice is just to wait.

If you do not fit the new criteria your application will be rejected and you can continue to drive on your UK licence.

If you do fit the criteria, your application will be processed. You will hear from authorities either asking for extra documentation or – if your application is complete – asking you to send in your old UK licence.

Once you send in your old licence you receive an Attestation de Depot de Permis de Conduire, and you can use this as proof of your right to drive until your new French licence arrives.

Unfortunately, we do not know how long the exchange process is likely to take.

If your licence expired while you were waiting, it can still be exchanged.

For more information on exchanging your UK driving licence for a French one click here

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